Simple Steps for Getting Serious with Clutter

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declutter your life

You’re onboard with downsizing. Less is more, you’ve decided. You’re ready to go. Pumped! Primed!

And intimidated like you can’t believe. Where in the heck do you start? When everywhere you look there’s Just Too Much Stuff, how do you pick your battles?

You are not your brother’s keeper

It’s easy to get trapped in the “heritage” conundrum. You feel you can’t get rid of the grandfather clock that hasn’t worked in eleventy-billion years because it’s been in the family since Great-Great-Great-GrandPoobahFather John Boy Walton came over with it strapped to his back on the Mayflower, and your fourth-cousin twice removed might want to give it to his unborn daughter/son/poodle one day.


It doesn’t work, there’s probably no one you know who can fix it, you’re tired of it, you don’t want it, you don’t have the space for it, so why should you have to keep it just because they don’t want it or have the space for it? How in the heck does it compute that you’ve become the family storage center?

Make a list of everything you’re keeping strictly out of obligation. Contact all family who might feel entitled to it in some way. Tell them that they have until X-day to make a claim on it and come pick it up, or it’s going to charity. And then stick to your plan. Make it happen! You got this!

Ditch the old media

It’s a digital media world, so why does your entertainment cupboard look like it’s 1999?

When is the last time you listened to a cassette tape or watched a VHS? That’s when it should’ve been put in the recycling bin, then. As for DVDs and BluRays, as much as some people want to think they’re obsolete, they’re not. People complain about their inability to move around their “digital” collections owned through online subscriptions, and a lot of folks are craftily keeping hard copies of favorite movies and music that may one day be unavailable when licenses expire or it goes out of production.

I, for one, despite being the poster-girl for clutter-killing, have kept ALL my movies and music on hard copy. Wanna borrow my M*A*S*H DVD? You betcha. I’ve recycled all the cases, though. With handy binders for DVDs and other discs, I’ve reduced an entire wall of storage down to 24 shelf-inches of binders. Keep your media, ditch your cases, and win on all counts.

Condition matters

Is it chipped, broken, stained, badly out-of-date? Get rid of it. I see this with everyone from electronics nerds to people with plate collections. If it can’t be restored to a safe and usable, or aesthetically-pleasing condition, then stop the hoarding. Let it go. Ditto if it’s rendered obsolete by newer technology. You’re hoarding it for some emotional reason, but if you look at it logically, you can’t argue that it’s just gotta go.

Put your foot down and tell yourself that you’re worth owning only things that are in whole, good condition. When it’s stuff that needs to be fixed, it’s not just clutter — it’s guilt, an unfulfilled obligation, another nagging little sign of how or why you feel like you’re failing your potential.

But all it is, really, is something that became broken. It happens. Don’t let it cloud your self-judgment. Dispose of it in an eco-friendly way and move on. If you can’t, and don’t, use your Atari 5200 from 1983, it’s something some guy on eBay will be happy to buy in just about any condition. Sell, sell, sell!

Time won’t stand still

There’s a fear that the “new purger” suffers. It goes something like: “If I get rid of everything, I won’t have anything!” I think we all go through that the first time. Soon, though, very soon, your house fills up again. More stuff. More Tupperware, more books, more magazines, more clothes, more keepsakes, more gifts — more, more, more!

You’ll be shocked you ever thought you were minimizing your life.

It’s the clutter creep. It always comes back.

Don’t be scared to purge. It doesn’t mean you’ll never buy anything or receive anything again. You will. In fact, you’ll have to do this every three months if you want to maintain that open, airy, clutterless feeling. You’re laughing at me, I know, but it’s true. It gets easier, and faster, every time.

It’s worth it

If you haven’t used it, if it’s broken, if it makes you feel sad, if, if, if…

If you even think “Should I throw this out?” and for a moment you’re torn, that means it can go. Just do it. You’ll feel better when it’s all done.

Your life isn’t in your cupboards. It’s not strewn around you. Your life is bigger than “things.” You already know this, and that’s why you’re reading this. Stop getting hung up on the stuff that, in the end, won’t matter. You know your stuff’s holding you back from enjoying life. Now’s your time to show that stuff who’s boss.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.